After dusk, the volume of tourists dies down, a cool breeze settles in, and the street light go on. You’ll feel that you have the city to yourself.
There is no better time to experience Paris than at night. Watch this video to join me on a Paris at night tour with Discover Walks. My Parisian tour guide Oleg was amazing. He had lots of energy and funny stories to tell. He also revealed lots of secrets I hadn’t know before, despite having been to Paris a few times in the past already. Check out their site if you’re interested in doing the same tour.
Paris, la ville lumière
Paris earned its reputation as la ville lumière (city of light) because it was one of the first to have street lamps. So it makes sense that one of the best times to enjoy it is when the sun sets and the lamps turn on.
Paris’s reputation as la ville lumière also comes from its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment. But the bit about the lamps is interesting!
You can enjoy the romantic city lights around the Académie française, Louvre palace and along the Seine river, such as on Pont des arts and its other bridges.
By the way: attaching a lock to Pont des Arts is not a Parisian tradition!
Pont des Arts (Bridge of the Arts) become a symbol of romance with hundreds if not thousands of locks mounted on its rails. So what’s the point of the locks?
“Aiaiai. You tell me,” says Oleg sounding exasperated. The idea is that if you are a couple walking across the bridge, you attach a lock and throw the key into the Seine river as a symbol of your undying love. But Oleg, like other Paris locals, says he is frustrated with it. Just a few years ago he remembers picnicking on the bridge without a single lock in sight.
“Zero locks!” he emphasizes.
Its a recent tradition created by tourists – not a local habit. The city is at a loss for what to do. The locks are weighing the bridge down and if a lock or a piece of the bridge falls on the head of a tourist on one of the Seine cruises, there could be not-so romantic injuries and lawsuits.
**Exclusive tip from Oleg: “If you don’t love anybody get the one with a code so you can unlock it.”
Even Oleg wasn’t expecting this art experiment. A hologram lady dressed in a leopard-print body suit greeted us in one of the gallery windows. We were watching her closely, trying to figure out the message of the installation when suddenly a beard appeared on her face. Then we were really confused.
After the bearded hologram lady, we head into a parking lot to see an ancient wall. In Europe it’s common for Roman ruins to be uncovered while digging into the ground to build parking lots or buildings, but I have to admit I would never have thought of going down there.
Paris Street Art
Did you know that the undercover artist who started the space invaders street trend is French? He has added the icon to streets around Paris and the trend has spread internationally.
Another artist by the name of Gregos has taken to creating plaster masks that he paints and sticks to random walls. People find them so amusing that some even rip them off and take them home.
The Left Bank and Saint-Germain-des-Prés
This is one of the best areas for people watching. It has fun, food and live entertainment. Drinks and food aren’t cheap, but it’s an ambiance that’s worth paying for. As you walk along, you might get the feeling that people are staring at you. That’s because they are. Just stare back!
“When someone says they live on the left bank they’re trying to tell you something,” says Oleg.
That is where the artists and writers have always lived. At night, it thrives with activity. While walking around, we spotted a number of restaurants and cafés with clientèle that looked so chic it was intimidating (particularly because they stared at us as we walked past).
We overheard a mother tell her children she was planning on buying them a book by Molière. And we were invited into a vernissage by a man wearing a fancy hat smoking outside an art gallery.
Anywhere else we might call these people posers. But here they are the real deal. They really do grow up reading Molière and going to vernissages to discuss the meaning of art and then debate existentialism vs humanism over a glass of vin rouge. And this is why you can’t not love Paris.